Belfast Telegraph

Don't expect us to play like Spain says Northern Ireland U-21 boss

By STUART McKINLEY

Stephen Robinson is urging the Northern Ireland public to avoid placing unrealistic expectations on the country's footballers.

While the fans sing 'we're not Brazil, we're Northern Ireland' under-21 manager Robinson believes that too many observers think that the men in green can play football of a similar quality to world and European champions Spain.

Robinson – who won seven caps over an 11-year period as a player – has a key role in the development of future internationals and today's European Championship qualifier in Serbia is another important building block for his squad.

"Unfortunately we are never going to be Spain," declared Robinson.

"In Northern Ireland a lot of people who haven't played the professional game think we can play like Spain, but we can't. We haven't got the players to play like Spain.

"We have to take bits of their game and do it in the right areas of the pitch and we have to play to our strengths as well.

"We want them to play, we encourage them to play, but these lads have to learn when and where to play."

Robinson's team has lost all three qualifiers to date, away to Cyprus in May before back-to-back 1-0 defeats against Belgium.

They have also failed to score a goal, but attacking options have become more limited with Swansea City's former Cliftonville striker Rory Donnelly.asking not to be considered for the under-21s for the second time in his short career, leaving Robinson uncertain over his future.

"At the minute, I don't know what the situation is with Rory Donnelly," said Robinson.

"I received a text message the night before the first game in Belgium to say Rory wanted to concentrate on his club career at the moment.

"We really rate Rory as a player and would love to have him with us, but he will now have to show he wants to be there before he is brought back."

Fulham's Liam Donnelly returns to the team today after suspension, but Jamie Sendles-White and Josh Carson are banned.

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